A breathless Gov. Sarah Palin announced today that she will step down from her post as Alaska governor at the end of the month, giving no details about her motivation or future plans.
In a news conference from her Wasilla, Alaska, home, the first-term GOP governor said, "This decision has been in the works for awhile," adding that, "I'm not wired to operate under the same old politics as usual."
Amid speculation that Sen. John McCain's 2008 vice presidential running mate has had her eye on the 2012 presidential race, it's unclear why she's leaving before the end of her term. Her run as governor ends in 2010.
Palin, 45, did not take questions after her announcement, but compared herself to a good basketball point guard facing "a full court press from the national level."
"She knows exactly when to pass the ball so that a team can win," Palin said.
Lt. Gov. Sean Parnell, also a Republican, is next in line to succeed her.
"I really don't want to disappoint anyone with this announcement," Palin told her supporters. "All I can ask is you'll trust me it's not more politics as usual."
Palin's decision not to run for re-election was not a bombshell on its own but, rather, her choice to resign at the end of the month was seen as a curve ball.
Indeed, many analysts believed it would have been tough for her to win re-election in November 2010 in Alaska and then try to campaign in states like Iowa, New Hampshire and South Carolina if Palin has aspirations for the 2012 presidential race.
The logistics of dealing with an Alaska legislative season in 2011 while spending time campaigning in the lower 48 would have been daunting, analysts say.
Gerry McBeath, a political science professor at the University of Alaska-Fairbanks, said Palin still appears to be an attractive political figure on a thin Republican presidential landscape.
"From what we know right now," McBeath told ABC News Radio, "she's not under any major investigation. There have been a minor series of ethical flaps, mostly from opposition figures in the state."
Even so, the nature and delivery of Palin's announcement prompted some puzzled reactions among analysts.
"It's mystifying," said ABC News political analyst Cokie Roberts. "It was a bizarre statement. It didn't make a lot of sense, and it doesn't seem to be the kind of thing someone would do if someone was running for president."
"The criticism has been that she's rather thin in the resume, and [that] she doesn't seem particularly serious or thoughtful," said Stu Rothenberg of the Rothenberg Political Report. "This kind of act, I think, only adds to that impression. It doesn't help her redefine herself."
But Fred Malek, a veteran Republican operative and Palin adviser, told ABC News today that Palin intends to continue to be helpful to other Republicans, and is leaving her political options open.
"She's not going to go hide in a cave," Malek said. "She'll continue to be a major friend and force for Republican figures in this country."
Malek said Palin is not ruling out a return to politics, although she has no plans on the horizon to seek another office.
Other supporters were equally upbeat about her future.